During the April 2020 meeting of the Montana Environmental Quality Council, three arguments emerged for quadrupling the level of radioactivity to be accepted in Montana’s TENORM landfills from 50 to 200 pCi/gm.
None of these stands to science or reason. They are superstitious and emotional arguments.
The safety net some propose for allowing hot loads up to 200 pCi/gm is limiting an average concentration in a TENORM waste unit, which they have mistakenly referred to as a “rolling average,” to 50 pCi/gm. The Department of Environmental Quality recognized that “there is no standardized method for calculating the in-place average concentration of TENORM waste within a TENORM waste unit.
Some have argued that computing an in-place average must be possible and easy enough, drawing a supposed analogy to blending protein levels in hard red spring wheat. The Argonne National Laboratory report commissioned and relied upon by the North Dakota Department of Health refutes that notion and explains why the analogy does not work. The Tetra Tech report commissioned and relied upon by DEQ accords with the Argonne report.
Richland County asked DEQ:
The short answer to your questions is, no. We have not found in our research and dialogue with other TENORM states regulations or methodologies for calculating rolling averages.
No state relies upon a magical nonexistent method. Montana would be the first to go with superstition rather than science because of deal-politics rather than rational rulemaking.
Another argument some make for allowing hot loads up to 200 pCi/gm is that, allegedly, there are so few hot loads between 50 and 200 pCi/gm. That cuts both ways.
Since there are so few, it is not that much of a burden to send just those few loads where they always have gone up until now. As fracking expanded in the Bakken oilfield, TENORM was shipped to Colorado, Idaho, and Texas, states with nuclear weapons and nuclear research facilities and disposal sites. Those sites have the experience, competence, and capacity to deal with high concentrations. The more proponents of allowing hot loads diminish the number of hot loads, the more they diminish their argument for dumping hot loads in Montana.
Keeping perspective, we are not talking about hampering the Montana oil and gas industry. North Dakota, where nearly 80 percent of the TENORM coming into Montana comes from, allows only 50 pCi/gm and has no licensed TENORM landfill or disposal unit. It’s their oil and gas business, not ours, and they can’t take it even below 50 pCi/gm! Step back from the trees and look at that forest. Some proponents of the quadrupled radioactivity level have expressed irritation with opponents using the phrase “dumping ground” when they say, “let’s not make Montana a dumping ground for hot-loads from out of state.” But how can you blame fair-minded, educated, and intelligent Montanans for seeing it that way? In the big picture, it is that simple.
Please, Environmental Quality Council, go with science and reason, not superstition and emotion.
 In its August 2019 proposed rules, DEQ used the term “the average concentration in a TENORM waste unit does not exceed 50 pCi/g of combined radium Ra-226 and Ra-228” (MAR Notice No. 17-406, certified to the Secretary of State August 13, 2019, New Rule III(1)(c), p. 1247, not the term “rolling average,” and the two terms are not synonyms.
 Supplemental MAR Notice 17-406, New Rule III, TENORM Waste Management System Limits and Restrictions, Reasons, 161.
 Christopher B. Harto, Karen P. Smith, Sunita Kamboj, and John J. Quinn. Radiological Dose and Risk Assessment of Landfill Disposal of Technologically Enhanced Naturally Occurring Radioactive Materials (TENORM) in North Dakota, No. ANL/EVS-14/13. Argonne National Laboratory (ANL), 2014.
 To keep things overly simple, just a few of the reasons are multiple nuclides (228Ra, 226Ra, and 232Th); varying ratios of one nuclide to another not only between loads but with a load; and different rays along the radio spectrum with differing effects on health, safety, and environmental quality. At best, rather than being a simple averaging by arithmetic mean, any computation would have to be a matrix or worse, what Tetra Tech calls “a statistically robust method of tracking the cumulative activity concentrations of each of the three nuclides accepted by the landfill is essential to ensuring that the dose to the worker does not exceed 100 mrem/y.” Tetra Tech Inc., Development of TENORM Rules for the State of Montana, December 2016, 20. See also at 22 and 27.
 Tetra Tech Inc., Development of TENORM Rules for the State of Montana, December 2016.
 Email from Rick Thompson, Solid Waste Section Supervisor, DEQ, to Civil Attorney, Richland County, May 20, 2020.
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